Monday, October 3, 2011

Ishikawa fined by Japanese Tour despite earthquake relief fundraising efforts

Ryo Ishikawa's efforts to raise money for the Japanese earthquake relief fund may have been hit after he was fined £16,500 by the Japanese Tour for pulling out of two tournaments.

Japan's golfing superstar is giving his entire earnings for 2011 to the fund, which was set up after the huge quake and tsunami devastated the east coast of the country earlier this year. Ishikawa will also add a further £750 for every birdie he makes this season.

The Japan Golf Tour Organisation took a dim view of the 19-year-old's decision to withdraw from the Kansai Open in August and last week's Toshin tournament, which he missed for the second year running, citing a sore shoulder.

The JGTO handed him the first such fines for three years on the men's tour as punishment.

'Rules are rules,' the tour's executive director Andy Yamanaka said. 'They are put in place to protect the tournaments. They are not rules only for Ryo.'

Yamanaka insisted the Japanese tour would not make any special concessions to Ishikawa's enormous celebrity in Japan, where his grinning face looks down from giant billboards and appears frequently on TV commercials.

'Yes he's a superstar but he is also one of 200 (JGTO) members and everyone plays under one set of rules. You should not change rules for one person.'

JGTO chairman Tadashi Koizumi said the organisation would 'get tough' next year to tighten the rules and prevent players suddenly pulling out of tournaments.

'We want the players to support the Japanese tournaments,' said Yamanaka. 'They can't just pay money and take time off, so we want to amend the rulebook.

'Even if Ishikawa goes off and plays on the American PGA Tour he will still have to abide by our rules.'

Ishikawa apologised and produced a doctor's note.

'My left shoulder felt like it was about to dislocate,' Japan's brightest hope for a future men's major champion told Nikkan Sports.

'The doctor told me if I played on, it would develop into chronic inflammation so I made the tough decision to withdraw.

'Last year I was playing in Europe so had to pull out. It's bad timing.'